Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts
Link to Sally Frisoli's Senior Art Thesis

Dan  Simmons

Sally  Frisoli 
Yellow Journalism in the Nineteenth Century

Dan Simmons' Use of Insecurity to Emphasize Fantasy

A new way of reporting, called yellow journalism, found its place in English and American society by the late nineteenth century. Popular journalism experienced a growth in circulation in both England and the United States, thanks in part to a rise in the literacy rate, a rise in mass politics, new technologies, and, most importantly, a new interest from the people. Yellow journalists wrote their articles in a way that appealed to the current popular taste and interests of the people. This new practice of reporting the news, largely supported by publishing tycoons Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, developed during the Cuban Revolution, when Cuban independence fighters resisted Spanish rule. Yellow journalism expanded further with the resulting Spanish-American War and the Whitechapel murders in London. The New York World and New York Journal presented readers with sensationalist stories revolving around these events. In England, tales of Jack the Ripper infiltrated British culture. Yellow journalists thrilled readers with stories of mystery, horror, crime, humor, and political crimes. Readers, enthralled by the exciting elements of yellow journalism, were transported into a quasi-fictional world of fantasy and reality.

Author Dan Simmons intertwines fantasy elements and historical events in his thrillers, Drood and Black Hills. These elements of fantasy are reminiscent of the text of yellow journalism in that they obscure the line between fact and fiction in the worlds of the characters. The protagonists of Drood and Black Hills are in a constant battle with their own insecurity, which manifests itself as paranoia directed at others around them – particularly those closest to them. This trait makes them more easily susceptible to both isolation, especially as they become absorbed in their worlds of fantasy. Wilkie Collins, the protagonist of Drood, is already isolated within his society, but when his friend Charles Dickens “mesmerizes” him into believing he must seek out a man named Drood who does not exist, his self-consciousness and alienation become more dominant. The fantasy that Dickens plants in his mind eventually controls his actions and exacerbates his feelings of unhappiness. In this way, Wilkie’s fantasy ultimately leads to his demise.

Major Works Consulted:

Curtis, Jr., Perry L. Jack the Ripper and the London Press. New Haven: Yale, 2001.
Simmons, Dan. Black Hills. New York: Hachette, 2010.
---. Drood. New York: Hachette, 2009.
Skog, Jason. Yellow Journalism. Minneapolis: Compass Point, 2007.
Photo Credit: Simmons, Dan. Black Hills. New York: Hachette, 2010.